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Law Practice Management

Employee Stole $685K From Law Firm & Partner’s Mom

Posted Jun 10, 2008 10:31 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A former paralegal and bookkeeper for a small Connecticut law firm proved to be a one-woman theft machine after she developed a gambling problem in 1998.

Karen Davis-Jennings, 44, was sentenced yesterday by a federal judge to 16 months in prison for stealing more than $685,000 from the firm and the partner's mother, reports the Hartford Courant. She also got two years of probation following her prison term and was ordered to pay $621,000 in restitution.

Specifically, Davis-Jennings began writing $265,000 worth of unauthorized checks on the operating account of the unnamed firm in 1998, in order to pay her mortgage, credit card bills and other personal expenses. "To conceal the thefts, Davis-Jennings falsified entries in the law firm's computerized accounting system to make it appear as if the expenses were related to running the office," the newspaper recounts.

The next year, according to court documents, she also began forging the signature of the partner's mother to withdraw $82,000 from a joint checking account that the woman, who resided in an assisted living facility, shared with her son. Plus, Davis-Jennings also reportedly activated a debit card on the account to pay an additional $243,000 personal expenses including gambling-related bills.

Meanwhile, Davis-Jennings obtained $97,000 more by falsely reporting she had worked overtime for the firm, the article continues.

After pleading guilty last year to three counts of mail fraud and one count of filing a false tax return, she had faced up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each mail fraud count. The maximum term for filing a false tax return is three years in prison and a $100,000 fine, according to a press release by the Connecticut U.S. Attorney's office.

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